The Startup Hustle: An Interview with Noel Geren

We’re kicking off a new content series here at LAUNCH DFW, where we talk to individuals in our North Texas startup community and take a peek inside their daily life.

What kinds of tools and tricks do they implement to get their hustle on?

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We had the opportunity to talk to Noel Geren, the man behind FoodFumble and ZoomRank. This is how he hustles.

Where are you from/what’s your background?

I grew up north of Dallas on a small farm, with my parents and two older brothers.

By the time I entered middle school, I was programming games on a hand-me-down Commodore 64, and soon after an IBM PS/2. When I entered high school, I used my savings to buy one of the “bleeding-edge” x486 machines that had just hit the market. Many a game were developed on that machine, including a 16bit home run derby game written entirely in assembly language.

After high school I entered college, seeking a degree in Art (which happens to be one of my passions), but quickly learned that sitting for hours on end painting wasn’t something meant for a kid with A.D.D. I ended up falling back on my talent, Computer Science.

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Noel, already in his element as a young kid.

Seeing the limited options of online directories for Dallas and bored to death in my freshman Computer Science class, I decided to develop and launch one of Dallas’ first online directories, MetroplexYellowpages.com. It was a mild success – we ran TV ads on local cable, had a few branded DART buses, but the search traffic just wasn’t there yet.

Shortly after my online directory went offline, I met a few individuals in the HR technology space that were looking to update an HR package they acquired, to something for the then-emerging enterprise. I decided to join their newly formed team, HRLogix, and we embarked on a most excellent journey. In 2006, FirstAdvantage, a then public company, acquired us, and integrated our systems into their complete HR hiring package.

After the acquisition, I wanted to pursue something outside of HR. I started ZoomRank, which at the time, was the first server-side SEO ranking and reporting platform on the market. ZoomRank has since grown into an enterprise leader, with over 75k users and collects more than 6 million metrics per day.

Where are you at now?

I continue to run and hold my position as founder and CTO of ZoomRank, establishing new products, and always looking for creative partnering opportunities.

Projects/companies you’re currently working on?

For the past year, my business partner and I have been developing Sprinkl I/O, a patent-pending next-generation irrigation controller focused on conservation and utility savings. We will be presenting Sprinkl at the September Dallas New Tech event.

Last fall, I launched FoodFumble, a free mobile application for Texas and Oklahoma that displays restaurant Health Department inspection results in a normalized fashion. FoodFumble is up, running, and available on the Appstore and Google Play. (Check out news coverage of FoodFumble here.)

How do you work?

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Noel’s office, where he hustles with Iron Man.

I tend to work a lot out of my office, but when I need a change of scenery, I can be found at the Global Peace Factory in Frisco (Legacy/121). Once a day, I frequent the gym to reboot. I find a good workout opens up my mind; many times an idea or solution to a problem will come to me during my workouts or time in the sauna.

What apps/tools/devices can’t you live without – why?

Depending on what I’m working on, there are numerous tools on my “utility belt.” If I’m working on a hardware prototype or hack, my (Afinia) 3D printer, (Aoyue 937) soldering iron, and (Fluke 115) multimeter are indispensable.

For mobile software development, if I’m working on an Android app — IntelliJ. And for an iOS/OSX app — Xcode, of course. When I’m doing server-side or client-side development, I find a text editor (in my case Textmate) as my go-to tool; I even write Java and other languages in it, as I find the bloat of a full-blown IDE is sometimes too much.

How do you manage your to-do list?

At ZoomRank, we use multiple tools for tracking tasks. Customers enter their support requests into Zendesk. From Zendesk, tickets for the appropriate projects are entered into our internal (and heavily customized) Redmine. Once in Redmine, we’re able to track changes from their inception to their production deployment.

For my personal hardware projects and designs I use a spreadsheet stored on my Google drive; having immediate access across both mobile and desktop is critical.

Any shortcuts/hacks that help you do things better that you might recommend?

Most of my solutions or ideas come to me at times of relaxation. Find your outlet/place of focus. Mine is the gym and sauna – I try get in an hour-to-two hour workout at least 4 days a week. Occasionally I’ll go for walks in my neighborhood, when a gym trip will cut too much out of my day.

What’s one thing you’ve learned that has helped you most?

Push your self to finish projects – don’t leave them hanging. To me, there isn’t anything better than looking back, and saying, “Yeah, I built that.”, and furthermore, don’t let not knowing something hold you back — I’ve burned up
more circuit boards and ICs than I can count. Try and try again.

Name something you’re currently obsessing over.

Over the past two years, I’ve been dabbling more and more in hardware design. I’ve developed multiple add-on boards for the Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and other development platforms. Lately, I’ve been working on the design of an integrated security drone for monitoring the perimeter of a house. Fun stuff!

Rachel Winstead
winstead.rachel@gmail.com

Rachel is a freelance writer and works at Soap Hope in downtown Dallas. She hates the term "disrupt," tweets about startups, and appreciates a well-crafted hashtag.